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Conflicting Reports Of Ukrainian Checkpoint Attack; South Korean President Has Strong Words For Ferry Captain, Crew; Boston Bombing Victims Determined To Run; No Sign Of MH370
Aired April 21, 2014 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RALITSA VASSILEVA, HOST: Hello, everybody I'm Ralitsa Vassileva at the CNN Center. Welcome to News Stream where news and technology meet.
South Korea's leader has harsh words for the crew of the ferry that sank, leaving at least 65 dead and more than 200 missing.
Tension in an eastern Ukrainian town controlled by pro-Russian militants is threatening a peace deal.
And Boston prepares to run the marathon one year after it was targeted after a deadly attack.
Seven crew members are now in police custody in South Korea for their suspected roles in last week's deadly ferry disaster. Four were arrested earlier Monday. The lead prosecutor says they could be indicted on several charges.
Authorities have already charged the ferry's captain and two other crew members. Captain Lee Joon-seok is accused of five criminal acts, including abandoning ship and causing bodily injury resulting in death. The Ferry's third mate and helmsman are also facing charges.
When speaking about them, South Korea's President Park Geun-hye did not hold back her words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PARK GEUN-HYE, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH KOREA (through translator): First and foremost, the actions of the captain and some of the crew are absolutely unacceptable, unforgivable actions that are akin to murder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VASSILEVA: Certain rescue operations continued for a sixth day on Monday. Dozens of divers have been going through the sunken ferry, but they have not found any survivors so far. At least 65 bodies have been recovered, 237 people are still unaccounted for. Rescuers are hoping against hope that they will find someone alive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHOUNG DONG-NAM, PRESIDENT, KOREAN RESCUE ASSOCIATION (through translator): Finding survivors is the strong desire of the whole nation. Proposition is the same as the missing people's families. We're all volunteers. We're in the same position. We cry every day and search for the missing people. I cry whenever I think about it.
All the families of the missing people and hundreds of volunteer divers are focused on searching for survivors. We're willing to risk out lives for this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VASSILEVA: But with each body that is recovered, an entire family's hopes are shattered. Kyung Lah reports from Jindo, South Korea.
KYUNG LAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The first police boat returns from the search site. Parents waiting. Bracing. They return one by one in identical, plain white bags. Behind the screen, initial inspection. A blanket to cover. And then a short march back to land. Parents rush to the white tents to identify their children.
He must have said, "Daddy, save me," weeps this father. No one is immune to the sound of losing a child. As the families leave the tents, so, too, do the stretchers emptied. Returning to the gurneys that await the next boat. Another group of someone's children. Another march back to the tents.
Thirteen return in this group but more than 200 are still missing. Gurneys on the left side of the dock, divers board ships to the right to continue the search. To bring the rest home.
Kyung Lah, CNN, Jindo, South Korea.
VASSILEVA: Our Paula Hancocks is joining me now live from Jindo where there is just unbearable sadness for the families and everyone involved in the search operation. Paula, thank you for joining us.
You have some new information on the search. Tell us what you've learned.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ralitsa, first of all let me tell you about a heartbreaking scene that is happening right now at Jindo Harbor. There is a man on a loud speaker who is basically announcing bodies that have been found and describing them to waiting families who are crowded around him. He is explaining the gender, the height, the weight and what clothes they are wearing. And basically these desperate families are crowded around him waiting to see if they hear what might indicate it is their child. It is just a heartbreaking scene.
For these desperate families, this is the sixth night since that ferry actually sank.
Now the fresh information that you were talking about, officials from the joint task force have been speaking to CNN. And they say at this point it is still a search and rescue operation despite the fact that survivors have not been found since Wednesday when this ferry sank. They say that at this point they are working under the assumption there could be survivors. They say they haven't found an air pocket in the ship at this point. But it doesn't mean there isn't one. There is a possibility, they say, there are air pockets because the ship has not completely sunk.
They say at this point it is 10 to 15 meters below the surface and it seems to be maintaining its floating level. Ralitsa.
VASSILEVA: And Paula, what can you tell us about where exactly the search divers are going into, into the ship at this point?
HANCOCKS: Well, the same official told us that they are trying to get into the cafeteria. Now we have been hearing all along that this is where many of the passengers may have been when this ship listed significantly and when it started to sink.
Now we understand that they are trying to get in this area. They say it is very difficult and they know that there are a lot of objects inside, which is making it very difficult for them.
They also tell us a little bit about just how bad the conditions are, that the divers have a visibility of something between 30 and 40 centimeters. And they can barely see their own hand in front of them.
We also have footage from underwater and you can see just how difficult it is for these divers to see.
One diver that I spoke to today, a civilian diver who has 18 years experience said that he had tried to dive in Saturday and Sunday to try and look for survivors, but he said the conditions were just too bad. He couldn't even get in the water. And he told me that it devastating then coming back and having to look at the families knowing you're coming back empty-handed -- Ralitsa.
VASSILEVA: Just so difficult.
I wanted to ask you also about radio transcripts that were released over the weekend. Have they shed any new light as to what caused this accident?
HANCOCKS: Well, they're certainly interesting. What we have seen from these radio transcripts between the Sewol, the sunken ferry and two radio towers nearby was that the first distress signal went out at 8:55 am and then just one minute later at 8:56 am an unidentified crew member on the Sewol said that the ship had listed so much that they were unable to move.
So it really shows us how quickly the ship listed.
Now these are the first transcripts that we have, or the only transcripts we have saying that the first distress signal was 8:55. And then all the way throughout until 9:38, which is the last transmission of the ship, which is 43 minutes.
So within 43 minutes, this ship completely lost communication and throughout they are saying this crew member that they cannot move. When asked by the vehicle alert traffic center whether or not the passengers were getting on life boats, getting into the rescue boats, they said that they couldn't move. And at one point, they also said that they were unable to broadcast -- Ralitsa.
VASSILEVA: Paula Hancosk in Jindo, South Korea. Thank you very much.
Now turning to the search for Malaysia Airlines flight 370. An underwater probe is on its ninth journey to the ocean floor. The Bluefin- 21 has scanned roughly two-thirds of its intended search area but has yet to locate any sign of the missing plane.
Meanwhile, efforts above the waves continue as well. Here's where the search crews were looking today. Officials say 10 military aircraft and 11 ships took part.
It has been 45 days since the plane went missing, but with no debris no answers, families of missing passengers and crew are living in agony. Some, though, are holding out hope that their loved ones may still be alive. Sumnima Udas has their story.
SUMNIMA UDAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They have been waiting for weeks, hoping, praying for good news. Families of passengers and crew members on board MH370 arrive for a closed-door briefing with Malaysia Airlines and government officials, some anxious, others visibly distraught, escorted by caretakers.
Two Chinese women can barely hold themselves. But, after the briefing, even more frustration.
(on camera): The briefing with families of MH370 ended just a little while ago. We have seen them walk out, many unsatisfied. They say they asked numerous questions, but most remain unanswered.
(voice-over): Questions on why the flight path is still unclear, how authorities can say the plane ended in the Indian Ocean when there's no evidence. HAMZAH ZAINUDIN, MALAYSIAN DEPUTY MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: I can completely understand their need to find answers. However, as I see it, in the briefing just now, we are looking for answers ourselves.
UDAS: Hamid Ramlan took this photo of his newlywed daughter and son- in-law just before they boarded MH370. They were on their way to Beijing for their honeymoon. It was their first trip outside of Malaysia.
HAMID RAMLAN, FATHER OF MISSING PASSENGER: I am belief that the government didn't decide something or hide any information from us. They're telling you the truth. But then mostly the members, the families do not want to believe.
UDAS: His wife is one of them.
RAMLAN: My wife cannot accept it. She still believe that they have been hijacked, and she believe that my daughter is still alive.
UDAS: It's a common sentiment here. The families have been asked by Malaysian authorities to provide details on what kind of financial assistance they may require and what can be done to help them move on.
But for those who believe their loved ones are still alive, this is not what they came to hear.
Sumnima Udas, CNN, Kuala Lumpur.
VASSILEVA: More violence in Ukraine threatens the truce brokered last week in Geneva. We'll get a live report from Kiev just ahead on News Stream.
And one year after the deadly bomb attacks at the Boston Marathon, the city is determined to prove it's Boston Strong.
VASSILEVA: Violence in Ukraine over the weekend is threatening to derail a proposed peace deal reached in Geneva. Gunfire erupted at a makeshift checkpoint in eastern Ukraine on Sunday. Several people were killed. Pro-Russian militants blame a Ukrainian nationalist group, but it denies any involvement and says it was staged by pro-Russian supporters.
The Ukrainian government says it is investigating.
So the accounts of Sunday's attack are vastly different. Pro-Russian militants saying six people were killed at the checkpoint, while Ukraine's interior ministry reports three deaths. But as Phil Black tells us, the death toll is not the only thing in dispute.
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A nationalist attack or an elaborate propaganda stunt -- how and why these cars were torched are now key questions impacting Ukraine's future.
Yuri says he was there when it happened. He's one of the many pro- Russian militants who now control the town of Slovyansk. He shows me where he says he helped fight off an attack on this checkpoint.
Yuri says these were among the four cars which approached before people got out and started shooting.
This man says he was at the barricade when it came under fire. He says he saw his friend die before reinforcements arrived to help them.
The new pro-Russian administration in Slovyansk says six people were killed in the shootout, three from each side. And the surviving attackers fled in their remaining two cars.
Everyone here says they know who to blame.
"Right Sector, that's who attacked us," he says.
Right Sector is a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist group. Pro-Russians in Slovyansk say they recovered all of this from the attackers, including what they say is a Right Sector membership tag. Moscow also chimed in, accusing the government in Kiev of failing to reign in extremists.
The Right Sector says that's not what their tags look like, and they deny being involved.
And Ukraine's security service, the SBU, says its investigators on the ground aren't buying the pro-Russian story either. They believe pro- Russians staged the attack.
Whatever happened here, it is already having a wider impact on efforts to talk down the uprisings across this region. The locals we've spoken to tell us because of this they will not be persuaded to give up their weapons.
"This is the beginning of civil war. They wanted it. With this, they've got it," he says.
But the pro-Russians don't want to fight a war alone.
The self-declared mayor of Slovyansk Visislav Ponamalu (ph) has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to send peacekeepers to protect the town.
"And if not soldiers," he says, "please send weapons and humanitarian aid."
Once again in Ukraine, different versions of the truth are competing to be heard and both are fueling a crisis with no end is sight.
Phil Black, CNN, Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine.
VASSILEVA: Frederick Pleitgen is joining me now live from Kiev where the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will soon arrive.
So Fred, he steps into a very difficult diplomatic situation.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it certainly is a very difficult situation that Vice President Biden is going to be in -- getting into. Of course, on the one hand, the U.S. wants to remain tough on Russia, it wants to show the Russians that it means business as far as the policies here towards Ukraine are concerned. But at the same time, of course, they always have to keep that room for diplomacy open.
It's interesting, I actually spoke to some people here on the ground and most of them are very realistic about the situation. They say they realize that the U.S. can only do so much. They want moral support more than material support perhaps in the form of weapons or even U.S. forces on the ground. That's not something most people are calling for.
Now the Ukrainian government, Ralitsa, for its part over the weekend has said it wants to try and deescalate the situation. What it's done is it's called for a unilateral truce over the Easter holidays saying that a military operation it had going on last week would cease until Easter is over.
Now Easter of course is still ongoing, Ralitsa, here in Ukraine. And people here this year more than many years in the past are praying for peace. Let's have a look.
PLEITGEN: A light and a prayer in a country on the edge. There's a feeling of anxiety at the traditional Easter Basket blessing at this Kiev church. And a worried look on Victoria Sykhov's face.
Her husband Andriy is stuck in Crimea, only she and her son Caril (ph) made it to Kiev.
VICTORIA SYKHOV, UKRAINIAN AIR FORCE (through translator): It's awful. We lived in Crimea for years. And now the Russians just pushed us out. I'm very concerned about my husband and whether he'll be able to come here.
PLEITGEN: Victoria is a sergeant in Ukraine's air force based in Crimea until pro-Russian forces moved in with Moscow eventually annexing the territory and forcing Ukrainian troops to leave.
SYKHOV (through translator): It's really hard to celebrate Easter this year, not just for me, but for everyone, because we just don't feel safe.
PLEITGEN: That feel is ever present. Praying for peace as the family gathers for the feast at Victoria's mother's home.
And in church's across Ukraine during the Easter holidays, a time of reflection, forgiving and reconciliation many hope might calm fiery tempers both in Ukraine and internationally and allow cooler heads prevail.
"Easter is our most important holiday," this priest says, "and in this time we think about the situation and about each other and it should bring all of us together."
And sometimes prayers are answered. The next day, Victoria has received word her husband made it out and will arrive on this train from Crimea.
Home, that's the first thing Andriy says as he steps off the train and embraces his wife and son.
ANDRIY SYKHOV, VICTORIA'S HUSBAND (through translator): I can't express how happy I am to be with my family after such a long time.
PLEITGEN: In these times, even little things can bring great joy as people in this divided nation pray that world leaders will heed the Easter spirit and not allow the delicate flame of peace to expire.
PLEITGEN: But of course, Ralitsa, we know that the Easter holidays did not bring that calm and de-escalation that many had hoped for with that incident that happened in the east of the country. So certainly as Vice President Biden arrives here in Kiev, he certainly has his work cut out for him. And he is in a very difficult diplomatic situation -- Ralitsa.
VASSILEVA: So Fred, what happens if this deal totally falls apart?
PLEITGEN: Yeah, of course, I mean, the Geneva agreement at best at this point is certainly in peril with the Russians for their part saying none of it has been implemented yet. The U.S. saying the Russians are not doing their part to deescalate the situation.
The government here in Kiev says that if the deal falls apart, if they don't see any sort of movement, then they are going to continue what they call their quote, unquote anti-terror operation in the east of the country. Of course they have already sent Ukrainian troops there.
The big question with that, however, is are those Ukrainian troops is the Ukrainian military capable of fighting a counter insurgency operation. Certainly many people here in Kiev doubt that that's the case, they say the army is ill-equipped to do that. They believe that even with heavy armor moving in there that the Ukrainian army would have a lot of trouble clearing a lot of those buildings in the east of the country from those fighters. So certainly it's a very perilous situation. And one the Ukrainian government would want to solve diplomatically rather than in any other way, Ralitsa.
VASSILEVA: Fred Pleitgen live in Kiev, thank you.
Coming up on News Stream, the higher you are the harder you fall. These buildings accompanied some of the worst economic fallouts. Where will the so-called skyscraper curse strike next?
VASSILEVA: There's a strange theory, or some say a curse, about skyscrapers. Once the country aims to build the tallest building in the world it's headed for a financial crash. The Great Depression in the United States came as the Empire State Building was being built, the same in Dubai that went bust while the Burj Khalifa was going up.
Well, Saudi Arabia is due to start building the Kingdom Tower this week. They say it's going to be the world's newest, tallest building.
Once finished, it's supposed to stand a staggering 1 kilometer tall. So what could this mean for Saudi Arabia's economic future? Our emerging markets editor John Defterios is joining us now live from Abu Dhabi.
So, John, can Saudi Arabia buck this ominous trend?
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's the big question mark going forward.
And there's two ways to look at this, Ralitsa, one is the near-term connection between the tallest tower and then the aftermath right afterwards. Petronas 1996 complete, 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. As you're suggesting here you had the Burj Khalifa originally named the Burj Dubai before the bailout of Abu Dhabi, the neighboring emirate to come to the rescue of the emirate of Dubai. And then we had the real estate bubble burst here in Dubai at the same time.
But medium term we know that these two iconic fixtures brought in lots of traffic both into Malaysia and more importantly into Dubai. We have around the Dubai mall where the Burj Khalifa stands some 85 million visitors going into the shopping mall each and every year, which is just around the very tall tower.
Now can this be transferred to Saudi Arabia is the big question. This is the project, the Kingdom Tower, which is a kilometer high. They were aiming originally for 1.6 kilometers, it would be one mile high. Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, he's the nephew of the current king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, he strongly believes that you can rebuild the Red Sea city Jeddah around this big tower. So he's been buying real estate in that market for the last 10 years. And he said convincingly during an interview if in fact we push ahead, this will completely transform Jeddah.
Now there's very different conditions to Kuala Lumpur or Dubai. It's not easy to get into Saudi Arabia, so perhaps the visitor traffic will not move up. But this is a gigantic project. $1.25 billion, part of a $20 billion development in the Red Sea.
Of course, it brings up romance, a very tall skyscrapers, and transformation of Saudi Arabia known as a very closed economy, but can it be the turning point to try to open up the economy, open up commerce and bring more and more people into the kingdom. This is something that we still need to find out as it's being built.
VASSILEVA: So, John, can Saudi Arabia really afford all of that spending?
DEFTERIOS: Yeah, this spending project is primarily a private sector initiative by Kingdom's Holdings, again, Prince al-Waleed's project. He has had great success in Riyadh, for example.
But Saudi Arabia overall from a public sector standpoint, and it makes huge amounts of money from oil. It produces about 9.5 million barrels a day. So money coming in is not an issue, it's the spending going out.
First, let's take a look at the reserves of Saudi Arabia. It sits on a very large sovereign fund. It has foreign exchange reserves of just over $670 billion held in gold, held in dollars, held in U.S. Treasury bonds, euro bonds and the rest. So very prudent on that front.
But in the last five years, they've put together a spending project -- it's hard to imagine for a population of 28 million people, Ralitsa, to have a spending project of $380 billion. It's up two-thirds over their previous budget.
So they're putting into new hospitals, new schools, new universities, new roads, new rails. It's incredible record spending. After the Arab spring they want to make sure that their population is very happy.
And at the same time, beyond what's taking place in Jeddah, they're building four new cities with plans to build six. So four new cities with a million people or more. So the record spending, they need to break even now is to see oil prices at $85 a barrel, even though they produce it for five, to keep up with all this record spending that you see in the pipeline for the kingdom.
VASSILEVA: John Defterios in Abu Dhabi, thank you very much.
Still to come on News Stream, Boston Strong -- the city shows its resilience as runners prepare for the first marathon since last year's bombings.
And living out their golden years in Mexico. We'll tell you why U.S. retirees are headed south of the border.
VASSILEVA: I'm Ralitsa Vassileva at the CNN Center, you're watching CNN News Stream. And this is CNN.
Coming just to us, the death toll in the South Korean ferry disaster has jumped dramatically. The coast guard now says 87 people are confirmed dead. According to local reports, 10 bodies were found in one room alone. 215 people are still missing.
The Ferry's captain, third mate and helmsman have been charged in connection with the disaster. Four additional crew members were arrested on Monday. An underwater probe is on its ninth journey to the ocean floor. It's searching for wreckage from the missing Malaysian airlines plane. The Bluefin-21 has scanned roughly two-thirds of its intended search area and as yet to locate anything significant. 10 military aircraft and 11 ships look for debris on the surface of the water.
The U.S. vice president and several lawmakers are set to arrive in the Ukrainian capital Kiev soon for talks. Their visit comes one day after a deadly shootout in the eastern part of the country. Ukrainian and pro- Russian forces blame each other for that violence.
Today, 36,000 runners are taking part in the first Boston marathon since last year's deadly attack. There will no doubt be a hugely emotional event. Security is being beefed up this year with double the number of police officers compared to last year. There are also more security cameras and bomb sniffing dogs.
New restrictions are in place on liquids and backpacks. One year ago, two bombs went off near the finish line, killing three people and injuring 264. CNN's Deborah Feyerick takes us back to that horrific afternoon in Boston and the manhunt that led police to the suspected bombers.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The force of the two blasts 12 seconds apart said it all.
(on camera): What struck you about it?
STEPHANIE DOUGLAS, FBI EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Just the magnitude of it. It wasn't something small. It wasn't something insignificant.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Within minutes more than 1,000 police and federal law enforcement agents would embark on the largest investigation and manhunt of its kind in the United States.
(on camera): By the time you got to the crime scene, this is what it looked like, correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a scene of utter devastation and carnage. There was evidence strewn all over the place.
FEYERICK (voice-over): At FBI headquarters, chief of the National Security Branch Stephanie Douglas was keenly aware of the stakes.
DOUGLAS: We had to be concerned that there were other bombs or other co-conspirators elsewhere outside of Boston.
FEYERICK: Authorities knew at least one killer was on the loose but where, what next? By Tuesday investigators pieced together the pressure cooker bombs, identifying them as similar to those made in an al Qaeda bomb making manual.
RICHARD DESLAURIERS, FORMER BOSTON FBI SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: We were collecting pieces of the pressure cooker bombs, pieces of backpacks used to contain the bombs.
FEYERICK: A major break in the case came less than 36 hours after the attack.
DOUGLAS: A couple people from our counterterrorism division came in with the laptop like this. They said we think we know who did it.
FEYERICK: Of the more than 12,000 videos from businesses and marathon spectators, something unmistakable at the second blast site.
DOUGLAS: You see a man in a white ball cap. The hat is turned around backwards, walking into the frame of the shot.
DESLAURIERS: He places that backpack down on the ground, sliding it off his shoulder. Maybe 15 minutes later he makes a cell phone call. After that cell phone call concludes very shortly thereafter, you hear the first bomb go off farther down near the finish line. He glances quickly to the left, but walks diligently and deliberately to the right about 15 to 20 seconds after he departs the view of the camera the second bomb goes off.
FEYERICK: That video has never been seen by the public but is - expected to be shown at trial in November.
(on camera): What does that suggest to you when this man took a cell phone call before walking away?
DOUGLAS: That there was another conspirator.
FEYERICK (voice-over): That co-conspirator was identified later that day, another crucial lead.
DESLAURIERS: This video depicted the individual then called black hat walking with white hat down Boylston Street, both of them carrying black backpacks.
FEYERICK: It had been three full days, with the suspects still at large, a game changing decision.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today we're enlisting the public's help to identify the suspects.
FEYERICK: For the Tsarnaev brothers, things were about to unravel.
(on camera): How important was it for you and the bureau and everyone else involved in the investigation that the two suspects be taken alive? DOUGLAS: Very, very important.
FEYERICK (voice-over): But that's not what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED CALLER: They have explosives, some type of grenades, they're in between houses down here. Shots fired.
FEYERICK: Following an 8-minute fire fight in Watertown, police wrestled a wounded Tamerlan to the ground, his brother driving an alleged stolen car tried to free him. Instead, police say, he ran him over. Tamerlan was fingerprinted and finally identified by name. Brother Dzhokhar was identified later in a boat. He was less than 0.2 mile from where he abandoned his vehicle.
DESLAURIERS: We didn't know if he had bombs on him, weapons on him.
FEYERICK: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will stand trial in November.
Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Boston.
VASSILEVA: And we are just now receiving some live video of the arrival of the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Kiev, Ukraine. You see here he's arriving with a team of U.S. lawmakers. They're trying to help deescalate the crisis in eastern Ukraine. They're going to be meeting with the interim leaders in Kiev of Ukraine at this, I'm being told, is just a few minutes ago, not live pictures, but we just received them just minutes ago the arrival of Joe Biden there being met by officials in Kiev.
He's arriving on a very, very difficult diplomatic mission to try to deescalate the crisis as violence is rising in Eastern Ukraine over the weekend. There was a shootout in -- on a country road outside Slovyansk, which is town which has seen its administration buildings occupied by pro- Russian separatists. He is going to try to deescalate the crisis, try to implement a Geneva deal, an international deal that was reached with Russian, the European Union and the authorities in Kiev on trying to deescalate the crisis. We'll keep you informed on his trip.
Moving on now to Nigeria. In a brazen attack, 129 girls were abducted from their boarding school in northeastern Nigeria one week ago today. At one point, the Nigerian defense ministry claimed most of the girls had been freed, but it later retracted that claim. And officials now say 77 girls are still missing.
CNN's Vladimir Duthiers has been following the story since it's broken.
Vlad is joining me now from the Nigerian capital Abuja.
So one week later, Vlad, why hasn't the military been able to get to these girls?
VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ralitsa, the military says that they have launched a frantic search and rescue operation to find these girls and bring them home to their families. And President Goodluck Jonathan Nigeria has said that that is a priority. He's directed the military and his national intelligence agencies to bring these girls home.
The problem is where these girls are reputed to have been taken, this forested area near the border with Cameroon is considered a Boko Haram stronghold. This is where in the past Nigerian military and the Nigerian airforce have bombarded the enclaves of Boko Haram in this forest.
Now as you can imagine, if you're now not able to use your air force to route out these militants, you have to launch a ground offensive and what will have happened in the last week or so is these militants will have been entrenched in the forest. They have set up a defensive position. And you will now launch an offensive operation into an area that you're not very familiar with and which is their natural territory.
So as you could imagine, casualties could be very high.
In the past, the women that have been captured by Boko Haram, they've lived a horrible existence. They've been forced into marriage. Many of them have had children by their captors. But they haven't been killed, at least we haven't heard of reports of them being killed. And so I think that there's probably an assessment happening, which is if you launch, as you know, Ralitsa, if you launch a rescue operation of any kind when there are hostages involved that could certainly lead to casualties not only of the terrorists, but also the military and more importantly the hostages themselves. So I think that's what we're looking at right now, Ralitsa.
VASSILEVA: Vladimir Duthiers in Abuja, thank you very much.
Coming up next on News Stream, American expats are spending their golden years on golden sands. We'll tell you why many are choosing to retire in Mexico's Puerto Vallarta.
VASSILEVA: A large number of Americans are living their retirement dreams not at home, but on the warm sunny beaches of Mexico, yes, Mexico. And despite growing drug violence in many parts of the country, many expats says Puerto Vallarta is just heaven for them. Rafael Romo tells us why.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we are.
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A toast with friends sitting by the pool in the backyard and enjoying unbeatable weather.
SARA WISE, AMERICAN EXPATRIATE: And to get over to Cancun.
ROMO: It's the life Sarah Wise dreamed of, a life she found abroad.
WISE: There are lots and lots of people who have done it. And everybody likes it.
ROMO: The 63-year-old and her 70-year-old husband Mike Wise are both American retirees from frigid Minnesota. They have been enjoying the warm weather and beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for more than six years.
Sara organizes activities for expats as a hobby.
WISE: We have lots of friends in our expats group that we get together and we have happy hours. We have wine and appetizers. We have coffees in different neighborhoods. And we get together at different restaurants.
ROMO: Medical care is another factor they considered when they decided to move here.
MIKE WISE, AMERICAN EXPATRIATE: And the accessibility to the doctors is something that we just never experienced in the U.S. and from what we understand it's getting more difficult not less.
ROMO: Many doctors and dentist offices cater to foreign clientele. As you can see, their signs are in English. And their staff is fully bilingual. Medical care here in Puerto Vallarta, and in general in Mexico, is much more affordable than in the United States. A doctor's visit is only about $40.
KIM ALTMAN, AMERICAN EXPATRIATE: No matter what they do $40 per visit. And you can get in to see them the very same day you need them. It's very convenient in a lot of ways.
MIKE ALTMAN, AMERICAN EXPATRIATE: Very high quality lifestyle.
ROMO: Mike Altman, a 68-year-old retiree from California says affordability goes well beyond just medical care.
ALTMAN: We have an ocean view, 3,000 square foot condominium that I can afford on my social security. How is that?
ROMO: According to officials, the expat community here in Puerto Vallarta, composed mainly of Americans and Canadians, is about 35,000 strong. That number continues to grow in spite of safety concerns. Drug violence in Mexico has made headlines around the world in recent years. The tourism secretary of Halisco State (ph), where Vallarta is located, was gunned down last year.
But these expats say they're little corner of paradise has largely remained untouched and have never felt unsafe.
SARA WISE: We're here for good.
ROMO: Rafael Romo, CNN...
SARA WISE: They'll probably take us out in a jar of ashes.
ROMO: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
VASSILEVA: Well, an iconic gadget is marking a big milestone today, 25 years. Nintendo introduced the GameBoy, it wasn't the first handheld gaming device, but it was the first to become a huge success. One of the main reasons the GameBoy took off was this game Tetris. The ability to play the addictive Russian puzzle game wherever you went turned Nintendo's handheld into a huge hit. 35 million copies of Tetris was sold for GameBoy.
Well, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are preparing to visit on of Australia's most iconic sites, the rock formation called Uluru. The visit comes after the couple took in Sydney with Baby George. They are on a three week tour of Australia and New Zealand. Hopefully they didn't forget to send home a birthday card for William's grandmother, the queen turns 88 today.
And you may have noticed an unusual animal, I certainly did in those pictures of the young royals. It's called a bilby, an Australian marsupial and it has a very special connection to the baby prince. Our royal correspondent Max Foster explains.
MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Proud parents taking their boy on a trip to the zoo and an encounter with a bilby. George meet George. Not a coincidence, of course and the reason this wasn't any old trip to the zoo.
This bilby was named after this heir to the throne, as was the enclosure.
George seemed thrilled to receive a keepsake of his trip, a toy Bilby. Then again, maybe not.
This, his second official engagement lasted less than half an hour before he was whisked away to nanny. Then, his parents carried on passed the tree kangaroos, and some non-indigenous species, then into an amphitheater with a view where they were treated to an animal show.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will enable her catch her...
FOSTER: The message here was conservation and it's one that's close to the Duke's heart. And the couple seemed to love it.
Well, there you have it, the royals stroking a kuala bear with the harbor, Sydney harbor in the background, an extraordinary scene and another iconic historic royal moment.
And pictures that will also play into Australia's visual history, one that's still inextricably linked to a monarchy based on the other side of the planet.
Max Foster, CNN, Sydney.
VASSILEVA: Looks like perfect weather down there and staying Down Under a tropical cyclone is looming near the search area for flight MH370. Mari Ramos is at the world weather center. She joins me with more on that. Mari, what are you seeing?
MARI RAMOS, CNN WEATHER CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, lovely weather like you said there as we head across the east coast of Australia, but let's go ahead and head to the other side of Australia and that is where we have Tropical Cyclone Jack. You can see it right over there. Talk about maybe over 1,000 kilometers to the west of Perth.
But this is the search area for that Malaysian Airlines plane and as we've been talking, of course, this continues to be one of our top stories. The -- they're still searching for the plane in this region. So they have helicopters, they have ships. They have planes. And then of course they have the submersibles. All of these things, all of these things that they're using in the search could be affected by this tropical cyclone. Tropical Cyclone Jack is moving to the east-southeast at about 19 kilometers per hour. And you can see the search area we highlighted there for you. Already a lot of cloud cover starting to move in here.
Winds close to the center about 140 kilometers per hour. So this is a minimal tropical cyclone as far as tropical cyclones go. Hurricane strength would be 120 kilometers per hour, so this is just above that.
But it is moving into an area where it's not favorable for it to continue intensifying. So we're going to see is two things. First of all, it'll start to slow down as it nears the search area, that center of circulation.
The second thing is, it probably will start getting a little bit weaker. So we're going to go down to 110 and then all the way down probably to about 55 kilometers per hour. However, a lot of that moisture will continue to trail in across this region here. And the other things is the waves. That's -- there's no stopping that. That will continue to move on right through there. So we're going to see a big change in the weather pattern that we've had across this region over the last few days.
So clouds and showers on the increase, the winds are also on the increase and as are the swells. So that's going to be something to monitor.
I want to take you to another one of our top stories. And of course its' the ferry accident here in South Korea. The square right here marks the general area of where that happened. And you can see that there's a lot of weather moving through here and has been over the last 24 hours. Most of the rain now is south of Jeju Island, as you can see there, but there's a lot of cloud cover and a lot of light rain and drizzle. Big change in the weather, though, as we head through the next few days.
Partly to mostly cloudy skies on Tuesday and then sunny and partly cloudy as we head into Thursday and even -- Wednesday and Thursday, excuse me, but little chance of rain over the next few days. And that's going to be a big change. The winds also dying down just a little bit. And that will hopefully help things out there a little bit.
That area of low pressure moves away. High pressure moves in. So you'll be kind of in between the two weather patterns. Wet as head back over toward Japan and then back as we head over into mainland China. But in this area across the Korean Peninsula, in southwestern parts of South Korea in particular, partly cloudy and relatively calm winds.
Not this, look at that. Did you take a -- did you see this over the weekend, Ralitsa? This is that Easter weekend tornado just north of Rome. There were no reports of serious injuries, but this was definitely some damage as you can see much calmer weather fortunately expected today.
VASSILEVA: I missed that one. It's quite incredible.
RAMOS: It shows you. Tornadoes can happen anywhere.
VASSILEVA: Absolutely. Mari Ramos, thank you.
Well, still ahead on News Stream, hundreds of people were injured in the Boston Marathon bombings last year. But many survivors say their resolve is even stronger than ever. One family's incredible story is coming up next.
VASSILEVA: Back now to Boston where 36,000 runners are taking to the streets in the marathon, that's some 9,000 more than last year. And the number of spectators is also expected to be the most in the marathon's history. It's likely to be an emotional event for many, as well, especially for the survivors of last year's Boston bombings.
CNN's John Berman has one family's inspirational story.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kevin White is running. Bill White is walking. But most importantly, the entire white family is standing, tall.
KEVIN WHITE, BOSTON BOMBING SURVIVOR: Last year, I was on the ground at the finish line. This year, I'll be running across it. So, you know, it kind of proves to people that, you know, evil isn't going to win.
BERMAN: I first met the Whites nearly one year ago after the Boston marathon.
(on camera): This is a picture of right after the race. Show me where you are.
K. WHITE: I am right here. I kind of got blown away from the blast by about five feet. My father's in the red right here, laying down, and my mother is right next to him over. And then you can see that the blast happened right around there.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kevin, then 34, had shrapnel all through his legs. Mary Jo, then 67, a broken wrist. And Bill White, at age 71, lost his leg.
BILL WHITE, BOSTON BOMBING SURVIVOR: Because when I woke up after the surgery, the first thing that dawned on me was I have one leg. That's a shattering moment for you. To lay there and say, you have one leg, how am I going to live the rest of my life?
BERMAN (on camera): You did write, you know, "I question God as to why."
B. WHITE: Why me? What did I do wrong and why did my life change this way? But I've learned to get over that in terms of, it happened, and I had two choices -- either continue to learn how to walk or to give up, and I'm not a person who gives up easily.
BERMAN (voice-over): No. None of them are. Bill did learn to walk. And son Kevin, he's running the Boston marathon.
(on camera): You still feel the shrapnel at all?
K. WHITE: I do. It doesn't hurt.
BERMAN (voice-over): Kevin explains why this is so important to him in his blog.
(on camera): The name of your blog is "Footsteps."
K. WHITE: Yes. For us, the concept of footsteps was taking steps forward from where we were. And with my dad, that's literally walking. So, those are his footsteps forward. You know, mine is training for the marathon and just kind of coming to grips with everything that happened last year, and probably the same for my mom, just recovering from that.
MARY JO WHITE, BOSTON BOMBING SURVIVOR: Good girl! Very good.
We've really tried to work together and individually at our own marathons this year. Just every day.
B. WHITE: And I think probably for Kevin and the others who are running, hopefully, we'll get to that point in the run where they remember they can and the will, but they can say to themselves, they can see the finish line and saying, I'm doing it. I'm doing it.
There's a huge difference between saying you can and you will, but doing it.
BERMAN (voice-over): They are doing it, all of them, together.
K. WHITE: I think looking back and reflecting, you know, we all kind of appreciate that we're still here and together.
VASSILEVA: And this is News Stream. But the news continues here on CNN. Stay tuned, World Business Today is coming up next.